Crappie: King of Spring

Largemouth bass are revered by millions of anglers. Catfish now have magazines and brands of fishing tackle devoted specifically to them. There is even a Gar Anglers’ Sporting Society for anglers who pursue those highly underrated fish (no kidding, you can Google it). But in the spring of the year when the waters are warming up and the dogwoods start to bloom, I’d venture to guess that no fish has more fans out there than the crappie.

There are a number of reasons why crappie are so popular in Missouri. They are found in streams, lakes, and ponds statewide, so you don’t have to drive half a day to get to a fishable population. They are fairly easy to catch, and you do not need a huge tackle box full of lures, or even a boat, to do so. When the bite is on, the action can be extremely fast. It is not unheard of for a pair of anglers to catch 500-plus crappie on a good weekend. Just remember during all this excitement that depending upon where in Missouri you are fishing, the daily limit is 30 crappie or fewer, and that minimum length limits may apply. Finally, crappie are one of the finest-eating fish in freshwater. Deep-fried, baked, or broiled, they are delicious!

Here are some tips and tricks from my 25-plus years of chasing crappie on Lake of the Ozarks, which are applicable wherever crappie are found.

When and Where to Fish

Contrary to popular belief, crappie do continue to feed and can be caught after the spawn is over. Fishing during the spawn is popular and easy since much of the crappie population is piled up in shallow water within a rock’s throw of the shoreline, but crappie can be caught throughout the year, even through the ice.

Once you have located a water body that contains crappie, where do you start fishing? In the spring of the year during the spawning season (late March to early May), it’s an easy choice since every limb and log in 1 to 3 feet of water can potentially hold that night’s supper. Shallow water can also produce good numbers of crappie in the fall of the year. During the summer and winter, crappie will move offshore into deeper water where they will congregate around submerged brush or other cover. The Conservation Department has placed fish attractors in many of